The Houthis, Iranian backed rebels have taken control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
The capital of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest and perhaps most chronically unstable nation, has new masters. Shiite rebels man checkpoints and roam the streets in pickups mounted with antiaircraft guns.
The fighters control almost all state buildings, from the airport and the central bank to the Defense Ministry.
Only a few police officers and soldiers are left on the streets. Rebel fighters have plastered the city with fliers proclaiming their slogan — “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam” — a variation of a popular Iranian slogan often chanted by Shiite militants in Iraq and supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The comparison to Hezbollah is apt as Reuters is reporting that the Houthi are blocking the appointment of Yemen’s president.
Abdel-Malek al-Ejri said Hadi had suggested five names at a meeting of his advisors, who represent various political parties in Yemen. When the aides failed to agree on a candidate Hadi suggested his presidential office director, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, as a compromise.
“But we did not agree, and the matter is still under consultation,” Ejri told Reuters.
Similarly, Hezbollah has kept Lebanon’s politics unsettled preventing the appointment of a President.
So what’s Iran’s interest in Yemen? It was spelled out by Michael Segall of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs two and a half years ago. A couple of Segall’s observations are sobering:
Iran regards Yemen in general, and its Shia northern part in particular, as a springboard for subversion and for creating a tangible threat to Saudi Arabia, its main religious-political rival in the region. Iran also seeks to establish a physical Iranian presence, ground and naval, in the countries and ports of the Red Sea littoral, which control the shipping (and weapon-supply) lanes leading from the Persian Gulf to the heart of the Middle East and to Europe.
Islamic Iran aspires to superpower status. It is actively involved in the region’s primary crisis centers. These include the “Arab Spring’s” main fronts with the West and the moderate Arab states: Syria, where Iran backs Bashar Assad through thick and thin; Bahrain, where Iran calls for the overthrow of the Royal House and supports the Shia demonstrators; and Yemen, where Iran is active in attempts to create a new order that is not based on support for the West.
While the West is obsessed with ISIS, Iran has continued its quest for dominance in the Middle East. In Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and now Yemen Iran is emerging as a major player.
In defending the nuclear deal with Iran President Obama said last year, “But if we can negotiate on the nuclear program in the same way that Ronald Reagan was able to negotiate with the Soviet Union even as we were still contesting them around the world, that removes one more threat — and a critical, existential threat — takes it out of their arsenal. And it allows us then to ultimately I think win them — defeat some of their agenda throughout the region without worrying that somehow it’s going to escalate or trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world.”
The problem is that even if the deal the P5+1 is negotiating with Iran is as effective as the president claimed it would be (and it appears to be a total capitulation), Iran continues to promote its agenda throughout the Middle East at little or no cost.
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